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Conspiracy? Theory? - Klubradio continues its struggle for staying on air – The frequency of Klubradio

28/01/2021 18:09

| Szerző: Klubrádió

A statement of Klubradio Hungary.

In the period between 2011 and 2013, altogether eight court rulings were issued for breaches of law that the Media Council, consisting of members of a single political party, committed against Klubrádió in order to strip it of its frequency and thereby silence it.

What central order could have been issued in the 2020/21 seasons? Certainly, no other than to serve the purpose of silencing all critical voices, and if possible, under the cover of lawfulness.

First of all, they had to reject the application for the renewal of the media service provision licence ending on 14 February 2021. It seemed that the authority embodying the interests of the governing party would have an easy job because the method tested on Civil Rádió (the last, smaller independent radio silenced last but one by the Media Council) had already stood the test in court. Two mistakes made within a single year and the hypocrite reasoning is on its way: “unfortunately, the law prevents us from making a positive ruling”. But then it turned out that Klubrádió had arguments that had not been cited in other court cases so far, such as violating the principle of non-discrimination, since the Media Council renewed the frequency licenses of other friendly radios despite similar “delicts” committed by them. So, the Media Council came up with another hypocrite feat and issued a call for tenders for Klubrádió’s to be expired frequency, implying for the sake of appearances that it is doing everything in its power to have the single significant radio in Hungary with an audience of several hundreds of thousands go on operating, saying that Klubrádió can even win the tender before 14 February.

For the diversion into a dead-end street, only some competitors were needed.  Lo and behold, there were two, all of a sudden. The prominent personalities of one of the two were people known very well from the media background of the Government (NER – System of National Cooperation – compatible). The appearance of the other one, the competitor belonging to the sphere of interests of the Faith Church (Hit Gyülekezete) operating the seemingly opposition ATV television, caused some surprise among those who are less versed in the world of media.

It is quite easy to see through this method. Of the three contenders, only Klubrádió was not disqualified by the Media Council, trying unsuccessfully to hide its malicious intent, the other two were disqualified for formal reasons. Those two, naturally contested the ruling in court, thus blocking the entire process for at least six months, and due to the possibility of other legal remedies, the delay could go up to an entire year or two. And the Media Council throws up its hands, well this did not depend on it (again), because of the provisions of the law (and events happening to coincide) the Media Council cannot do anything; it is bound to silence Klubrádió.

However, this commiseration is also false, which is supported by at least three factors.

One could sense from the statement of one of the disqualified contenders that it was disqualified for ridiculous reasons; reasons that should have called at the most for requesting some more information, but this would have resulted only in a 15-day delay in the tendering procedure. Just to be clear, based on the call for applications, it seems that the contender truly had to be disqualified, but the terms and conditions of the tender do not at all serve the diversity of the media and providing comprehensive information, but rather they offer a large arsenal of possible mistakes to be committed to help the Media Council cover its arbitrary decisions by a coat of lawfulness paint.

The second proof is also easy to see through: the media Council had the option at the court hearing held on 20 January 2021 on the renewal of the media service provision licence to back Klubrádió on its petition for immediate legal protection, based on which, if granted, Klubrádió could broadcast its programmes based on a court ruling until the legal disputes are settled. However, according to the Media Council, it would be the bigger problem and cause more harm if the Radio remained on air than if it is temporarily silenced via an unlawful decision.

The third piece of proof is a bit more complicated because it partially points a bit beyond the powers of the Media Council. A few years ago the Government amended the rules of issuing temporary frequency licenses. According to these, only those media service providers can be issued frequency licences before the end of a not even started tender or of a tender underway, even if it takes years, whose contract has expired once and for all, including the renewal period. However, the player who ran out only of the base period, such as for example Klubrádió, cannot receive such a grace, not even if the refusal of extension is the subject of a court case. The absurdity of such regulation, while it is also the “practical purpose”, is plain as daylight. One of the opposition political parties in Hungary filed a proposal for amending the law in October 2020, in order to correct this provision that cannot be called constitutional by any means, but Parliament, also very irregularly, did not even put this petition on the agenda. Wondering why.

Government circles threw their hands up regarding the scandals of the past few years of restricting the freedom of the media, such as the cases of Origo, Népszabadság, and Index, saying that they cannot interfere with the decisions of private companies. But regarding the fate of Klubrádió, they have no such possibility, the decisions to be made are in the hands of either an authority consisting of members of a single political party, or in those of the representatives of the government party as such, having a two-thirds majority. This is why they attempt to hide behind the appearance of lawfulness, but it is spectacularly unsuccessful. If the proceeding court does not, for any reason, issue immediate legal protection to Klubrádió, silencing it on 15 February will solely be the result of a political decision to this effect, because making temporary broadcasting possible depends solely on the legislators.

In the light of the events taking place in the Hungarian media arena in the past decade, our conclusions can hardly be considered as a mere conspiracy theory.

If political decision-makers do not change their minds and return to the constitutional order guaranteeing diversity of the press at least as regards the temporary frequency licences, then our last chance of hope remains the positive court ruling, expected on 9 February.

You can read this statement in Hungarian here.